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Sarah Pylas

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Power Maternity

Posted: 09/11/2012 13:03

There was a piece in Stylist magazine last weekend about the rise of 'power maternity', where pregnant women and new mums are using the time away from work to learn a new language, take up a hobby or to start a new business.

The article featured four women who had changed their jobs, and their lives, while on maternity leave.

One popped her baby in a backpack while she designed an outdoor maternity sports range; another opened a vintage bridal boutique while her newborn baby slept; one tells how she co-founded Mumsnet with a twin on each knee, and the final woman to be profiled ditched her day job to launch a dairy-free yoghurt range because she didn't want to sit around all day and "just watch Dexter and scoff Doritos".

The article prompted a response from Jezebel saying that Power Maternity Leave is just the latest way to make regular new mums feel inadequate.

Really? I'm not so sure it will.

I took 13-months off work when I had my son, now three. While he slept, I sterilised bottles, made dinner, did laundry and wiped sick off my shoulder. When he was awake, I fed him, changed his nappy and wiped sick off my shoulder. He didn't really like being in the sling too much, so I held him in one arm and did everything else with the other.

Some days I might well have just watched Dexter and scoffed Doritos, except it was Grey's Anatomy and Minstrels, but that was because some days it was about all I could manage after two-hourly night feeds with a colicky baby.

I looked around at my new mum friends and felt reassured that we were all in the same place. There was no expectation for any of us to be using this time any differently.

My baby was my exciting new venture. Managing on a single income was the new skill I was learning. Getting creative with the shopping budget was my new hobby and interpreting my baby's various cries throughout the sleep/eat/burp/poo/sleep cycle was the new language I was studying.

You know, regular mum stuff.

I'm a regular mum.

A regular mum, who does not feel inadequate for using my maternity leave to tend only to my son.

I enjoy being back at work now, but my year on maternity leave was all for my baby. There is already so much to feel inadequate about when it comes to motherhood - whether you choose to breast or bottle feed; use cloth nappies or disposable; how often you read to your child; do you allow them to watch TV; use of dummies; needing an hour to yourself; establishing a sleep routine; not establishing a sleep routine; baby classes; toddler groups; crafts...the list is endless.

I agree that comparing ourselves to other mums is sometimes at the root of many feelings of inadequacy, but not setting up an empire during the first year of your child's life should certainly not be one of those things.

There is no debating that what these four women have all achieved in business is incredible. I fully support women in business and even more so, I respect and admire any parent who manages to perfect the enviable work/life balance, so good for them.

My objection with the Stylist article was more that it seemed to be implying that mums who don't follow suit are just lazy so-and-sos watching TV all day and eating junk food.

Chance would be a fine thing.

 

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